Talk about a massive failure. Coke's taking a hard beating, and they aren't going out softly.
“Coca-Cola, the world’s largest producer of sugary beverages, is backing a new ‘science-based’ solution to the obesity crisis: To maintain a healthy weight, get more exercise and worry less about cutting calories,” writes Anahad O’Connor in the New York Times.
This campaign becomes at a particularly sensitive time, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts diabetes could triple by 2050 and over one-third of Americans are currently obese.
Loud and clear: Coke tells Americans we're too darn fixated about what we eat, but that we’ve picked the wrong culprit. The solution, according to this new campaign, simply involves exercising more.
Coca-Cola has really deep pockets; they can hire the best PR folks on the planet. And yet they’ve simply reworked the tired cliché of “eat less, exercise more.” Really, that’s the best they can come up with?
Their campaign embarrassingly flies in the face of the “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet” mantra most health experts adamantly espouse. I don't think anyone's really buying it.
Likewise, studies show while both become important, diet trumps exercise. One found physical activity alone less effective short and long-term compared with behavioral weight management programs.
Another one-year study among postmenopausal women found while diet or exercise could improve body weight and adiposity, doing both – eating a smart diet and exercising – created the most impressive changes.
“If you want to lose weight, don’t focus on exercise,” I wrote in my Sugar Impact Diet. “First of all, I’m not telling you not to exercise… far from it. But I don’t emphasize exercise until you’ve gotten your diet totally under control.”
Listen, no one on this planet is more pro-exercise: I think burst training combined with weight resistance makes an incredibly efficient, effective fat-blasting, health-promoting workout.
But if you’re eating a crappy diet – and yes, that includes sugary colas or artificial sweetener-loaded diet sodas – the best exercise in the world won’t save you.
Earlier this year, I discussed an editorial that said overly emphasizing physical exercise while neglecting healthy eating becomes a convenient way for manufacturers to create "health halo legitimisation of nutritionally deficient products."
I don’t think Coca-Cola is going for a health halo here. (You know soda isn’t healthy, right?) But their latest move does seem like a desperate last-minute attempt to rescue the declining cola industry.
Recent studies have not been kind to sugary sodas. One linked sugar-sweetened beverages with increased weight gain and Type 2 diabetes in women.
Another made similar claims, concluding sugar-sweetened drinks “should be limited to reduce obesity-related risk of chronic metabolic diseases.” And then there was one that argued sugar-sweetened beverages significantly contributed to weight-gain as well as increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
I could go on, but you get the very dismal point: Cola is anything but healthy. At the same time, it isn’t going to disappear. Coke and other gargantuan-cola companies will always find new, speciously “healthy” ways to spin their products and the current exercise-more campaign.
At the same time you know, just like I know, that cola ultimately becomes an empty-calorie, health-robbing beverage. Nothing good comes from it. And no amount of PR or the latest campaign spin will change that.
But nice try, Coke. Just consider firing your PR folks because you can do much, much better with your kind of money and clout.
Am I being too hard on cola or has the industry finally fallen into their bad rep? Share your thoughts below.